How Intel Got Blindsided and Lost Apple’s Business

Here’s why Apple stopped using Intel processors for Mac computers in favor of its own chips based on ARM designs

⭐ Robert Jameson
Marker
Published in
8 min readJul 10, 2020

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An Intel Core i7 processor on top of a closed Apple laptop with the logo visible.
Photo: Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images

After 14 years of collaboration, Apple announced last month that it will no longer be using Intel’s processors for its Mac laptops and desktops. It will rely instead on Apple’s own processor designs, which, just like the chips it uses in its iPhones and iPads, are based on the ARM architecture developed by ARM Holdings, a British chip design firm.

It’s a move that has been long anticipated, driving feverish speculation in online forums for the last 10 years or so. It represents a momentous victory in the fight between ARM Holdings and mighty Chipzilla itself, Intel — a fight that has been quietly raging since the iPhone launched back in 2007.

We often laud the benefits of competition. We want to see innovative companies competing with one another in free markets, to better serve the needs and desires of consumers. All too often, however, the profits go to large corporations whose success lies not so much with their ability to satisfy consumers as it does with their ability to maintain and exploit their market dominance, stifle competition, and force consumers to put up with whatever they’re given.

Fortunately for ARM, Intel didn’t seem to see it as a threat until it was too late.

So when little ARM Holdings started challenging mighty Intel’s dominance of the market for computer processors in the early 2000s, one might have expected Intel to successfully use its size and financial muscle to swat away that challenge.

And yet Apple’s recent announcement is yet another in a series of huge wins for ARM over its much larger and more powerful rival. The little guy (although owned by SoftBank since 2016, it’s still far smaller than Intel) is slowly winning, and Intel appears powerless to stop it.

How Intel missed the threat

Intel has been central to some of the most important innovations in computing history. It is credited with creating the world’s first commercially available microprocessor in 1971. I own a…

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⭐ Robert Jameson
Marker

Tech Writer. Philosopher. Economist. Basic Income Advocate.